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CSotD: Credibility Checks

I’m not going to single out any particular cartoonist on this first element, because it’s a large enough accusation and there are too many people against whom it could be levied. Having established that …

Editorial cartooning should be an extension of journalism. It is, of course, based on opinion, but valid opinions cannot be devoid of facts.


For instance, Frank Beard was perfectly within bounds to suggest that Grover Cleveland’s illegitimate baby was a threat to his election. The fact that Cleveland overcame the objections doesn’t change Beard’s accusation, even if Beard — a very religious man — hyped up the abandonment of the mother and child.

Grover the Good handled the political crisis well, but there is still controversy over how he handled the personal one. Beard’s famous cartoon, however, was opinion based on fact.


Thomas Nast is famous for his virulent anti-Catholic, anti-Irish attacks, and this 1872 depiction of NY gubernatorial candidate Francis Kernan infuriated the Irish Catholic core of the Democratic Party.

Still, the doctrine of infallibility was less than five years old and contentious at the time, while the Church has not lowered its high opinion of a faithful servant.

Nast may readily be criticized for putting his bigotry into print, but he was building on fact and I opposed taking his name off the Overseas Press Club’s cartooning award.

Though, as noted in that linked piece,

I’d tell (students) that Thomas Nast had hurt my people very much, but that he was undeniably the most brilliant, influential cartoonist in American history as well as a great artist.

And that I wish him well, I acknowledge his incredible talent, and that, wherever he is today, I hope he’s nice and warm.

As noted here before, it’s easier to be magnanimous when you are no longer at the bottom of the pecking order.

Which brings us to our current situation, in which the President has sent government troops — that even Fox reports as raising questions — to Portland, Oregon, to suppress riots.

Or demonstrations, depending on your point of view.


Reports from Portland itself — as noted here — suggest that the demonstrations are confined to a two-to-four block area and that the rest of this city of nearly 650,000 has been peaceful.

And, even in the neighborhood of the protests, the window-breaking and other fractious events are being done, again according to sources on the scene, by a small subgroup among  an overwhelming majority of peaceful demonstrators.

Which leaves editorial cartoonists with the option of going out to Portland to see for themselves, as any journalist might.

Or to temper their commentary by virtue of what local people say in contrast to what is said by those who have dispatched the aforementioned troops.

Or they can accept the administration’s point of view without question or investigation, affirming that the city of Portland is awash in chaos and violence and that only federal intervention can solve the problem.

It depends on whether you prefer to tailor your opinion to match the facts or vice-versa.

I’m reminded of when, in 1894, Nellie Bly went out to Illinois to report on the Pullman Strike and, after talking to strikers, found she had to shift gears:

I thought the inhabitants of the model town of Pullman hadn’t a reason on earth to complain. With this belief I visited the town, intending in my articles to denounce the rioters as bloodthirsty strikers. Before I had been half a day in Pullman, I was the most bitter striker in the town.

Nellie Bly changed the face of journalism, but establishing that legacy required the outsized personality of a relentless self-promoter and showboat.

If she holds to a higher journalistic standard than you do, it’s time to look within.


Here’s one from the crystal ball

(Jimmy Margulies, 2018)

(Donald Trump, 2020)

What seemed a joke two years ago is becoming reality, and cartoonists will have to revamp their standard image of the White House with word balloons emerging, because you won’t actually see the Executive Mansion anymore.

Having already been asked by the Reagan Foundation not to capitalize on the late president’s image, the Trump campaign will also need to avoid quoting what Dutch said to Mr. Gorbachev.

I remember reports of LBJ being deeply disturbed by chants of “Hey, Hey, LBJ — How many kids did you kill today?” outside the White House, while Nixon was so intrigued by the protests that he snuck out one night to sit and talk with the demonstrators.

I don’t recall any past presidents who felt it necessary to wall themselves in from the people they were pledged to serve.


Though, granted, Wilson used to sneak out a back entrance to avoid the suffragists at the front.

Maybe it’s a white-supremacist thing.


Meanwhile, back at the Antipodes

Once again, First Dog on the Moon nails a developing story despite being half a globe away, and you can read the rest of it here.

Though, due to the Coriolanus Effect, the people who lecture police at roadside stops in the Northern Hemisphere are apparently the opposite partisans of those who do it in Australia.

Wait, no, I meant “Coriolus Effect.”

The Coriolanus Effect is based on a Shakespeare play in which the lead character is described by Wikipedia thus:

His temperament is unsuited for popular leadership and he is quickly deposed, whereupon he aligns himself to set matters straight according to his own will. The alliances he forges along the way result in his ultimate downfall.

One can hope.

Meanwhile, First Dog goes on to describe people who purposely go into grocery stores without masks to assert their rights to hapless minimum-wage workers.

Which seems more like the Corionalus Effect than the one that’s about toilet bowls because that’s how it spins here, too.


Oh Happy Days!

Arlo & Janis is turning 35, which was about how old I thought they were anyway, though we’ve seen Gene grow up and move out and get married. And, yes, I do wish I could age in comic strip time.

Anyway, “Day” is their little-known last name, and so, if you need something to laugh about, tune in for the week’s celebration.



Community Comments

#1 Mike
@ 12:01 pm

That’s a Federal Public Courthouse and everything and everyone outside that red box regardless their politics depends on and pays for the common government function of the Courthouse. To suggest the violent anarchists all live in and around the “red box” and the rest of the city is rolling countryside of peaceful Portlandians is misleading at best.

Here’s Mike Balsamo Lead Justice Dept. & federal law enforcement reporter for @AP and his account of spending the weekend inside the courthouse. Good news: he made it out alive.

#2 Mike Peterson
@ 5:06 pm

Balsamo’s reporting is interesting — he repeatedly says the trouble is being caused by a small group of extremists and that
the majority of demonstrators are peaceful and well-intentioned.

Yes, those few violent people can cause injuries and damage, but they aren’t typical — he says so.

He also says that the feds are largely local residents. I’d like to see a breakdown of that, given that Trump has stated
that he’s sending people in. Somebody’s wrong.

Bottom line is that he doesn’t report anything that allows an ethical journalist to conclude that the place is out of control and he
says several things to suggest otherwise.

#3 Mike
@ 7:51 pm

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Regardless there’s nothing peaceful about the assembly or the protest unless you didn’t watch the videos or you don’t own a tv.

#4 phil von neupert
@ 7:44 am

I own a TV, Mike, and I’ve seen the videos. They are the same videos, played over and over. They are not an accurate portrayal of daily life in Portland. As someone who has studied criminology, I can accurately say that the media has always been selective in its reporting; the crime you see the most happens the least. The coverage you see is largely overblown, and is the result of sensationalism, whose purpose is to get higher ratings, in order to sell commercial air time. This is what happens when news becomes entertainment. Trump knows how to exploit this better than anyone. It’s an ever-downward spiral into madness, with no end in sight. The only solution is to vote Trump out, and then turn off our televisions for awhile.

#5 Mike
@ 11:34 am

“They are the same videos, played over and over.” -Mr.Neupert

Sunday marked 60 consecutive nights of protests and civil unrest in Portland. It’s not logical to think any network would play the same videos in a loop. In fact it’s a less than serious response given new video at your fingertips but I get the intent of the reply.

I’ll butt out but a courthouse is Federal property and Federally protected whether in Portland, Seattle, Bumphuk Alabama or Wash.D.C. Local gov. defends and protects fed property until they can’t or the Mayor won’t. You’re not watching Fed troops go out into Portland and incite you’re watching them metaphorically defend the Alamo. -ML

#6 HL Lewis
@ 7:38 pm

If Reagan was here today he would say:
“Mr. Trump, tear down that wall!”
And I am referring to the one on the southern border.
But I said it 5 years ago. Walls don’t just keep people out,
They can also keep people in.

#7 phil von neupert
@ 2:06 pm

Let’s call the civil unrest in this country what it truly is; an anti-Trump protest against the police state he has been trying to implement since day one. The deaths of George Floyd and the others simply provided a flash point around which to organize; a last straw. Trump knows this, which is why federal troops (by his own admission) are going only to cities with Democratic (mostly Black) mayors. It is an abominable use of government power for political purposes, ang even the military has problems with it. It is vile on so many levels as to be nearly incomprehensible. Trump is the living embodiment of “Big Government” at its absolute worst.

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